The GEAR UP Alumni Leadership Academy (GUALA) is a new initiative launched by the National Council for Community and ETimenee Thomas in Washington D.C.ducation Partnerships with support from the national GEAR UP community and funding from The Kresge Foundation. The GUALA is a 12-month program designed to train and engage GEAR UP alumni in advocacy and leadership, and work toward creating positive change in education policy for their younger peers. The GUALA will select 30 GEAR UP Alumni Leaders annually from across the country and grow the program to one per state over time.

The GEAR UP Alumni Leaders will share personal experiences about the challenges of preparing for, applying to, and affording college. They will educate lawmakers about the importance and value of GEAR UP. GEAR UP Alumni Leaders will also articulate how the federal investment in them—an average of $2,400 per student or $400 per year over 6 years—will be returned to the community over the student’s lifetime by earning a livable wage, paying increased taxes, strengthened citizen engagement, and better public health. Alumni Leaders will build their confidence and skills, and harness their leadership potential to become empowered, community-centered citizens (from

Louisiana GEAR UP alumn Timenee Thomas, pictured, was selected to be one of 30 individuals from across the country to participate in the GUALA.

Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Bunkie High School in Bunkie, Louisiana, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education from Louisiana Tech University.  Her GEAR UP experience includes service as both a junior and senior camp counselor for Louisiana GEAR UP summer programs, multiple Rewards for Success scholarships, and time as an Explorers’ Club leader. Timenee is currently living the GEAR UP mission as a middle school teacher at Ruston Junior High School in Ruston, Louisiana.

Ms. Thomas had the following to say about her experience with Louisiana GEAR UP, “I am proud to say that I was a part of such an influential program because of the many opportunities and resources, such as the summer camps and Rewards for Success scholarships, I was provided.  In addition, I am thankful for having the chance to set myself on a positive and assured path through high school and college, so that I may give back and provide those same things to those that follow.”

To keep up with the action at the GUALA, visit the GUALA blog:

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